Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Math Worksheet (Or, "Blessings in Disguise")

I've been thinking a lot about finances lately. One of my New Year's resolutions was to spend less money. So far, I haven't been doing so well. I looked back through my checkbook register at my spending habits for January, and I realized that I still make way to many impulse purchases and spend too much money on frivolous things that neither I nor Isaac need.

For instance, I continue to buy him toys when I know full well he's just as pleased to have a piece of paper or the remote control. Instead of buying new stuff, I need to put away some of what we have and bring out things that he hasn't played with in a while so that they seem new. Also, I eat out for lunch (and dinner) way too often, and I do so out of laziness. Instead, I need to put forth the effort to cook dinner every night, making a little extra to pack for lunch the next day. Isaac's eating habits have helped encourage this. He no longer wants to eat his baby food. Since he has five (almost six!) teeth, he's much more interested in eating what's on my plate. This has encouraged me to make more healthful meal choices for myself because I want him to eat wholesome, healthy meals. So, I'm steaming a lot of veggies that I can cut into little pieces for him, and pairing them with chicken or fish and rice for me.

Also (and last example, I promise), I spend $2 every day on a grande cup of Starbucks coffee from Boston Avenue Grille, in the building next door to my office. I do this because I'm usually too rushed in the morning to make a cup of coffee to take with me and because I don't like the Folgers blend that the rest of the folks in my office drink. The solution? I've learned that I spend a lot of money out of convenience. When I take the time to make coffee or cook a meal or whatever, I can save a lot of money. So, I bought a pound of whole beans in the Starbucks variety I prefer, and by grinding them and brewing them each morning, I get a cup of coffee equal to but cheaper than what I've been buying every morning.

This all came on after I started asking my friend Natasha's dad, who's a CPA, a lot of questions about my taxes. What I found out is that being a poor, single mother is going to have some advantages for me. I found out I can lower my tax rate by filing as Head of Household; that, since I am so poor, I qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit; and that (and I already kind of knew this) I'll get a nice chunk of money back for having Isaac. All of that on top of what I would have already gotten back from the government as part of my regular yearly tax return. I think, and I'll know more on Thursday after I get my taxes done, that, with the money I get back, I can pay off, if not all, most of my credit card debt (which I accrued, mostly right after high school and during college, because of my impulsive spending habits). That money, the money I was using to pay off my credit cards, I want to put toward a down payment on a house. I also want to put everything I make writing freelance into that same coffer. If I do that, I think I could buy a house in a year. That realization is overwhelming me right now.

I've been thinking for a couple of years about buying a house. I've never spoken a peep about it or written anything about it here because I wasn't sure if or when it might actually be feasible, and I only like to speak aloud the goals I think are actually attainable. It has something to do with my lifelong fear of failure, I think. Anyway, now that I'm realizing that home ownership is actually within my grasp, I just can't believe it. I feel absolutely amazed by God's power, to be completely honest. I never thought being a single mother could have its blessings (other than the blessing of having my son, of course). But, if I were with John or married right now, none of this would be possible. I mean, how amazing is that? And I know it's not an accident; I just hope I don't screw it up! Which is why I have to get my spending under control. I went into Lundeby's Eco Baby the other day with my friend Megan, and I didn't buy a thing! (Amazing considering that's never happened to me before in that store.) At Target, I bought the diapers and formula I needed, but, even though I browsed the toys, I didn't buy anything. (It helps, too, that I've decided to also be more thoughtful about where and how I spend my money. I plan to make a more concentrated effort to spend it at local businesses.)

(Ladies, that does not mean that I'm giving up on Lunch Fridays. I will be there for sure!)


cyclefreaks said...

Kudos to you! We are working on many of the same goals... the financial ones will really be in full-on "get there" mode once I know what I'll be making at my new job. I still haven't gotten the official offer, it's making me nervous.

Kaia is poo-pooing baby food now too. We had Chinese takeout tonight and I wasn't about to give her any (sigh. deep fried yummy sesame chicken) but I'm more than willing to shovel into my pie-hole. Why can't we want for our bodies what we want for our child's? Yep, our eating habits are about to change for the better, for all three of us.

(oh, as for the house thing, it's totally doable! Go for it!)

Tasha said...

What a great thing to look forward to and work toward! I'm excited for you. I've been trying to get motivated to change our spending habits, but I have yet to really succeed. However, knowing that someone else is doing it too, somehow makes it seem not-so-bad.

I know you can do it, and what a great reward you'll have when you reach your goal! Best wishes to you.

P.S. I'm glad you're not cutting out Lunch Fridays...oh, and now that spring is right around the corner, I would definitely be up for outside, sack lunches ;)

Shelly Collins said...

Well your honesty is refreshing...and inspiring for me to be better with my money. I REALLY want to start balancing my checkbook. Help. Please.

As I've said before, I know God has big plans for you ;)


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